In 1978, my daily commute on the D train
from the not-quite-South Bronx of 170th Street
to the not-yet-Upper West Side of 96th,
found me surrounded by men and
women in suits with blue collars.

I woke up 90 minutes earlier
than my friends and would often
fall asleep on a stranger’s shoulder,
startle awake, embarrassed
but unmolested.

Contrary to popular belief,
I felt safer on the subway
than on the walk home,
or the walk from school,
where my legs grew stronger
thanks to the ever-shifting boundaries
that defined my block,
and my mother’s ever-changing
definition of home.

The elementary school in Manhattan
was better than the one in our neighborhood,
where years later Taft High School would be
the first to have police as security guards,
so I lied to all but my closest friends
about why I couldn’t play after school,
or hang out on the weekends,
my Bronx pride silenced, itching
at the back of my throat.

161st Street was my favorite stop,
Yankee Stadium a few blocks away
but crystal clear in my imagination,
still a fan at that young age
with no realization that Reggie Jackson
would begat Jason Giambi and Pay-Rod
nor that a few years later,
I’d be a Mets fan.


Today, my commute on the D-train
has gotten longer, my blue-collared suit
hangs loosely on my tired frame as I lean
against the door to stay awake, and my
definition of home inevitably changes.

161st Street remains my favorite stop
but only because the exodus
of obnoxious fair-weather fans
making this one exception to visit the Bronx
means I can get a seat the rest of the way
and not be tempted to stab someone
in the neck.

At 34th and 42nd Streets, you can pick them out
even without their brand-new pinstripe
paraphernalia that marks them like
16-point bucks ripe for someone’s trophy wall.

I sometimes imagine my mother didn’t
raise me better, and pick out my target
from the herd – look for the Rodriguez jersey,
the “Boston Red Sux” cap, or the Navy Blue polo
with embroidered logo.

The ones quick to remind you about the 26 championships
when another season ends prematurely,
as if the Yankee teams they’ve been cheering
the past four years have any connection to that history.

In 1978, ten blocks from where I grew up
listening to baseball games on AM radio
and watching This Week in Baseball
in hi-definition black-and-white,
the Son of Sam was on the loose,
Ed Koch was lying his way to Gracie Mansion,
the Bronx was burning but the Yankees
were giving us something
to cheer about, something
to believe in, as Reggie Jackson
laid claim to the month of October

In 2007, an overpaid multi-millionaire
whose best work has always come
too early, whose love for the game
has never matched his talent, decides
the Bronx is burning again
and he’s not paid enough
to handle the heat.

The talk on the D train this morning
leans toward the bitter “good riddance”
with a melancholy dash of “if only…”
and the subtlest undertone of hope.

That burning you smell isn’t fire,
it’s the friction that leads to the spark
that begats the flame of rebirth.

Like the Bronx itself,
the Yankees will rise again
spitting in the face of those who wrote
them off and the D train will be there
to bear witness, me, standing by the door,
awake and happy to be going home.

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